Zaccheus climbed up into a sycamore tree

The sycamore (Ficus sycomorus) is a type of tree growing only in the Jordan Valley and near the Mediterranean coast. The sycamore is pictured as growing in abundance in the shephelah (lowland, 1 Kings 10:27). This is in contrast to cedars which Solomon planted in Jerusalem.

The sycamore is not the same as the tree by that name that grows in North America. The sycamore tree belongs to the nettle family, like the mulberry and fig trees. The fruit looks like a fig, but the taste is unpleasant. It is eaten by the poor. See Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 179-81.

Zaccheus climbed up into a sycamore tree at Jericho (Luke 19:4). Here is a sycamore tree at Ashkelon that reminded me of Zacchaeus. The limbs are low. Even a child could climb into the tree to get a better view.

Sycamore tree at Ashkelon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sycamore tree at Ashkelon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Amos the prophet, who lived at Tekoah on the edge of the Judean wilderness, spoke of working with the sycamore fruit.

Amos replied to Amaziah, “I was not a prophet by profession. No, I was a herdsman who also took care of sycamore fig trees. (Amos 7:14, NET Bible).

This photo shows the sycamore figs on the tree.

Sycamore figs. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sycamore figs. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

13 responses to “Zaccheus climbed up into a sycamore tree

  1. Pingback: Day of Pentecost | Mark's Bible Study

  2. Janet, pardon my delay. I don’t know about the meaning of this being in the nettle family. Notice the reference to Mulberry and Fig being in same family. I have not seen any thorns in any of these.

  3. Related to the nettle, does it sting like nettle? Yikes!! Anyway, I’m planning to use some of this info. in a VBS lesson about Zacchaeus this week. I had heard that the sycamore was thorny, but sounds like it could have been worse than thorny.

  4. Another interesting connection I just noticed – the boat discovered in the mud on the shore of the Sea of Galilee was repaired numerous times and one wood used was sycamore.

  5. Thanks for the comment. I understand about the piercing or gashing of the fruit, but I am not comfortable with the application you make. It may be true, but the text does not support it. The discussion of the Sycamore in Musselman, Lytton John. Figs, Dates, Laurel, and Myrrh: Plants of the Bible and the Quran. Portland: Timber Press, Inc. 2007: 251-255, is interesting.

  6. Remember, the sycamore fruit is small and tastes sour. It is known as a fruit for the poor. Only when one pierces the middle of the fruit does one get a sweet taste. Much like when Jesus pierced the heart of Zaccheus. You see Zaccheus was a tax collector who gave the occupied forces the money he collected from his own people (sour hearted indeed). It was only after Jesus asked to be in communion with Zaccheus when he sweetened up to the Love that Christ had for him as well as Jesus has for all of us. Amen and Shalom.

  7. Great information and beautiful pictures! It really clarifies things. I have reblogged it.

  8. Reblogged this on Lloyd's of Rochester – an Eclectic blog and commented:
    This really helped me understand the account of Zaccheus climbing a sycamore tree (he was a little guy, after all). Nice pics, clear description.

  9. Thank you! I’m so excited to share about the sycamore tree in my sermon. I’ll be sure to credit you.

  10. Pingback: Fruit and Nuts – Figs and Nabal | Mark's Bible Study

  11. Pingback: The fig and the sycamore fig | Ferrell's Travel Blog

  12. Glad you found this helpful. You may use the photos. A tiny credit line would be appreciated.

  13. Great info about the sycamore tree. I always wondered how Zaccheus could have climbed up the sycamore trees I’ve seen in the streets. Might I use the photo in a power point at my church?

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